The Best – and Worst – Times to Coach Your Child After a Tough Game
A lot of parents I know tell me about the ways in which they coach their kids in sports, and in many of these instances the way they go about trying to help their mental toughness actually hurts athletic development according to sport psychology findings. Jumping on your kid as soon as he gets in the car after an 0-5 game in baseball isn’t the best time to try and talk about improving batting for the next game. In fact, parents who coach like this not only see little success with the instruction they are providing, but also (ironically) usually witness increased frustration and decreased motivation for future athletic improvement.
While it is normal to want to immediately talk to your child about what he or she did wrong in the game earlier today, I want to discourage you from doing this (especially if your child just had a really bad game). Think about it this way — the two polar opposites of how we experience life is through logic and emotion. More specifically, when we are really emotional we usually do not think logically, and when we are devoid of emotion we often use our best logic and critical thinking skills. Now apply this to the ride home after you kid’s bad game — your son is angry and frustrated, and the last thing he wants to do is try and fight through those emotions in order to learn from what just happened!
A better way to go is to use the 24-hour rule. Using this approach, the best thing to do is let your child simply emote after a tough game – in many cases this means simply providing him or her time to chill out and unwind. Sometime the following day, when emotions have decreased, you might want to revisit the game from the day before and begin an open-ended dialogue beginning with a question like “How did you feel the game went yesterday?” Allow your child to speak and continue to ask him or her about new ideas he or she might have for improvement for the future – you can always add your thoughts at this time as well.
So the best time to “coach” your child is the day after a game when emotions have subsided but the memories of the game are still fresh. The worst time to help is immediately after the game on the emotional car ride home. Instead, after tough games try doing something fun — like surprising your child with a quick stop for an ice cream cone.
For more information on how to help your child excel on and off the field, check out The Mental Toughness Guide to Athletic Success e-book!